Lee Smith

  • MISSING IN ACTION: THE ATLAS GROUP/WALID RAAD

    Walid Raad is writing a history of contemporary events in Lebanon, a seemingly comprehensive essay using video, the Internet, performance, collage, and digital photography, not to mention prose in English, French, and Arabic. Given its scope and the obsessive nature of the cataloguing, it’s not surprising that Raad has enlisted help in the form of the Atlas Group, a foundation comprising various individuals and institutions, some of which exist independently of their relationship to Raad and some of which don’t. That is, the Atlas Group is real, but some of its components are made from a fictional

  • Contemporary Arabic Representations

    The Arab world, any pundit will tell you, is caught between the powerful media of the liberal, egalitarian, feminist West and the political culture and religious vision articulated in the Koran. Sure, there’s a grain of truth here, but since Arab intellectuals and artists have been wrestling with “Arab modernity” for at least the last hundred years, the schematics are a bit denser than the Baywatch vs. burka paradigm. This show investigates a number of proposals emerging in the Arab world, especially in Morocco, Palestine, and Lebanon, with an emphasis on Beirut.

  • Michel Houellebecq

    ONE OF THE MORE TELLING recent developments in French cultural life has been the sudden nostalgia for Jean-Paul Sartre coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of his death this year. No one really misses Sartre's ideas about “Being” or the Communist International, but a reconsideration of the place he filled in French culture has signaled a genuine EU-era cultural identity crisis. He was the last in a long line of engaged and very public intellectuals, a tradition that included, in the twentieth century alone, Zola, Malraux, Camus; if France is no longer turning out Voltaire-quality men of

  • Hans Haacke

    IN 1937, BERTOLT BRECHT SUGGESTED that replacing the word Volk—a noun in vogue at the time among the ideologists of Aryan superiority—with the neutral, even bureaucratic Bevölkerung (population) would be one way to “avoid a lie.” Last month, German-born Conceptual artist Hans Haacke took Brecht’s cue and found himself in the spectral embrace of a debate about blood and soil in the new Germany.

    In 1998, the German parliament (Bundestag) invited a number of artists to contribute work commemorating the reopening of the Reichstag building in Berlin as the seat of government. Haacke, a US

  • Lisa Phillips

    FOR MUCH OF THE ’90s, the New Museum of Contemporary Art wasn’t high on the list of must-see New York venues. Its feisty glory days a thing of the past, the institution, with its uninviting space and an exhibition program that was spotty at best, seemed ready for a major overhaul. Now, the changes that began with the museum’s renovation and expansion as well as the appointment of a new senior curator have led some to think the New Museum may be on the road to respectability. “With the right director,” says artist Matthew Ritchie, “the museum could take over the Whitney’s mantle.” In any event,